So, the very first Arab regional INET at Carnegie Mellon University, Qatar, is done and dusted and according to INET Qatar Chairman, Fadel Al Enazi, it was a huge success with the perfect array of speakers. Judging by the turn-out, it was undoubtedly an event that people felt tackled the issues they wanted clarity on. One attendee, Haysam Fahmy, a digital marketer, expressed his opinion on the themes of the day, “This event brings some pretty good thought leaders from around the world to talk about some challenging subjects regarding the internet and the worldwide web…one thing I’m interested in, is getting those outside the Arab world to understand the Arab world better, through commonalities, through digital content.”
Certainly, thought leaders on all issues internet-related, had something to share and get feedback on. One of the main themes of course, was how this global phenomenon makes a regional impact and as Secretary General, Dr Hessa Al Jaber from ictQatar put it, “The more we can grow together as a region, the more successful we will be.”
The first panel consisted of Professor William Dutton of the Oxford Internet Institute, Shabina Khatri from Doha News and ictQatar’s, Mina Nagy and Mohammed Al Bashir. They looked at issues of an inclusive Arab information society. Challenges in the world of reporting news online in the region and a variety of projects on the go to promote Arabic online content were also discussed at length.
Next was an interesting session on Spurring Internet-based Innovation and Economic Growth and a chance to pick the brains of OECD economist, Taylor Reynolds, Microsoft’s Nasser Kettani and GCCIX’s Fahad Al Shirawi. When posed with a question on the possibilities of starting an internet based company on a low budget, the panel offered some advice, to think outside the box and also explore other means of financing ‘…not all banks are created equal’, they said.
As the day wore on, the most riveting of discussions on Internet policy changes and the way forward, were tackled by Theresa Swineheart of Verizon, SAMENA’s George Salama, Qusai Al-Shatti of Kuwait Information Technology, Paul Rendek of Ripe NCC and ISOC’s policy advisor, Karen Mulberry. Also on the panel was Dr Imad Hoballah from Lebanon’s Telecommunication Regulatory Authority, talking about some hard-hitting issues regarding internet policy. He did not sound like the government often does i.e. out of touch. As he related his own daughter’s expectations of how the internet should run, Hoballah made it clear that the people should be more outspoken about the policies they expect or don’t expect in order for government to sit up and take notice. He also emphasised the resultant effects of the Arab Spring: the choking of the internet in many regions and the fear of political transformation through the internet.
ISOC’s senior director of global services, Sofie Madden closed the afternoon by reminding everyone at INET Qatar of the great opportunities the internet has presented the region, while ISOC Qatar’s Fadel Al Enazi ended by highlighting the goal of ensuring that the region has enough digital knowledge to be a part of e-commerce.
Click here to read the minute by minute update of the event.